He may seem like an unlikely suspect, but former Gold Coast drug squad detective Peter Betts was recently found guilty of drug possession.
A search of Mr Betts’ home and car in late October uncovered a single tablet of ecstasy, as well as two glass vials of steroids.
While he was fined $600 by the magistrate, he did not receive a conviction on his criminal record owing to the small quantities of drugs that were found and his difficulties battling post-traumatic stress disorder following the Palm Island riots.
Queensland law allows for people who are guilty of crimes to receive a fine without having a conviction recorded against their name.
This is different to the ‘all or nothing’ approach in NSW, where receiving a fine automatically means that a conviction is recorded.
Here in NSW, the only way to avoid a conviction of you are guilty of a crime is to receive a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order’ – which means that you are guilty but you do not receive a criminal record, fine or – in driving cases – a disqualification from driving.
While Mr Betts’ career has suffered an obvious setback as a result of the charges, Magistrate Nunan’s decision not to record a conviction means that his conduct might not be as big of a set-back in terms of pursuing an alternative career as it may have been if a conviction were recorded.
Members of the Surfers Paradise drug squad, who worked alongside Sgt. Betts as part of Operation Kilo Faction earlier this year, said that the conduct came as a surprise.
The operation, which was hailed a success, resulted in the arrest of 152 people following a three day raid on outlaw motorcycle gang clubhouses and prominent Gold Coast nightclub hotspots.
Nightclub owner Ivan Tesic was arrested for drug trafficking following the raids, after it was alleged that he supplied cocaine between Sydney and the Gold Coast.
Millions of dollars in cash and property were seized by police during the raids, as well as 15 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of MDMA and a kilogram of methamphetamines.
Prior to his arrest, Mr Betts had led a distinguished career, working as a police officer in Queensland and Tasmania.
He had also received a bravery award after rescuing a drowning man in Tasmania.
Despite these accomplishments, his career as a police officer appears to have come to an abrupt halt.
Drug possession is one of the most commonly prosecuted offences in Australian courts, and Mr Betts’ case goes to show that persons from all walks of life can be charged with a drug offence.
In New South Wales, drug possession is a criminal offence under section 10 of the Drug (Misuse and Trafficking) Act 1985.
To be found guilty, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an illicit drug under your custody and control.
There is no need for the prosecution to prove that you owned the drug – you can still be found guilty if, for example, you were simply holding drugs for a friend.
However, there are several ways in which you can fight a possession charge to escape a conviction on your criminal record.
An expert drug lawyer will be in the best position to advise you of the options in your case.
Our lawyers specialise in drug law and have a vast amount of experience winning all manner of drug cases – from small possession to commercial drug supply, manufacture and importation cases.
One way that we frequently get drug possession charges dropped or thrown out of court is by showing that police did not have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ to search you.
This is also known as an illegal search.
To be able to legally search you, police must have a factual basis for the search – they cannot just search you randomly.
For example, appearing nervous or fidgeting will not give rise to a reasonable suspicion.
We are also able to have charges dropped where police allege exclusive possession, but are unable to prove that you had sole custody or access.
For example, if drugs are found in a shared area of your house, such as the kitchen or lounge room, there is a good possibility that we can win your case due to the possibility that someone else may have put them there.
In other cases, there may be insufficient evidence to secure a conviction, or you may be able to raise a defence to the charges, such as duress – where another person threatened or coerced you into engaging in the conduct
No matter what the allegations are, our team of experienced, specialist drug lawyers are here to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.